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RE Speakers Series

REflecting on 'dangerous days': Miami in 1980

In 1980, chaos descended on Miami: cocaine money corrupted its banks and homicide detectives; race riots decimated its Black neighborhoods; and more than 100,000 Cuban refugees arrived almost simultaneously. In the middle of the mayhem stood late Miami Mayor Maurice Ferré, the father of Ransom Everglades alumnus Dr. Maurice Ferré ’79, P’10 ’13, and a central character in a new book by RE parent Nicholas Griffin P’25 ’27, called The Year of Dangerous Days: Riots, Refugees, and Cocaine in Miami 1980.
“These are national or geopolitical issues, and they land on him,” Griffin said about Mayor Ferré during an October 28 webinar, the first Paul Ransom Digital Podium of 2020-21. “If it wasn’t for the local efforts, the city would have been absolutely swamped.”

Noted Ferré: “I would describe my father as someone who always knew his place in history … He was just the right guy at the right time.”

Griffin and the younger Ferré joined Head of School Penny Townsend and Director of Advancement Melanie Hoffmann to relive that tumultuous year in Miami’s history and examine its implications for the Magic City of today. The virtual event brought together RE parents, students and alumni, extending a series of remote community gatherings Ransom Everglades launched in spring 2020. Watch the webinar here

Griffin, whose book was released to critical acclaim in July, described 1980 in Miami saying, “it gets ugly, and it gets ugly pretty quickly.”

The year included deadly riots that followed the acquittal of four white police officers in the killing of Arthur McDuffie, a Black motorcyclist; a massive rise in homicides connected to the cocaine industry; and the challenges posed by a massive influx of refugees in the Mariel boatlift – some released from Cuba’s jails.

“It’s like death through a thousand paper cuts,” Griffin said. “When will this end?”

Through it all, Mayor Ferré worked to unite the city. He welcomed the refugees, condemned racism and sought to unravel the cocaine underworld. The vibrancy of Miami 40 years later stands as a testament to his success.

“The genius of Maurice Ferré is he’s the bridge between all of these communities,” Griffin said. “He’s obviously bilingual; he’s bicultural … he’s a highly popular man.”

Noted Ferré about his father: “He loved Miami. Miami was so important to him … In today’s world, we yearn for these types of leaders. We yearn for people who have this demeanor of bringing people together … These were tough times.”

If you missed the event, you can watch it here.
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Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The mission of Ransom Everglades School is to provide an educational environment in which the pursuit of honor, academic excellence and intellectual growth is complemented by concern for the physical, cultural and character development of each student. The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.